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P2P and Online Gaming Pose Risky Problems for Uninformed Parents

P2P and Online Gaming Risk
File-sharing and online gaming expose kids to a variety of harmful elements. The fact that most parents are unfamiliar with these services (relative to other online endeavors like social networking) only compounds the inherent dangers and issues. File-sharing services, also known as peer-to-peer networks (P2P), close as frequently as new ones spring up, which makes it difficult for parents or casual Internet users to keep up with trendy sites, like these. And, while establishing ground rules for gaming seems effortless enough, ensuring that kids adhere to those regulations is a wholly different matter.

When discussing P2P networks, parents should inform kids about the inescapable risks. The most publicized issues relate to the legal repercussions of downloading pirated content. Illegally sharing just one song can result in a five-figure fine and a permanently stained record. File-sharing also remains a primary method for predators and pedophiles to disseminate pornography (particularly of the child variety), and many sites feature potentially dangerous chat rooms. Viruses also present a constant threat.

Parents can disable file-sharing and downloading to prevent these threats, but knowledgeable kids can easily counteract those basic efforts. But, representatives of the music and movie industries, particularly the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), actively combat threatening P2P activities. In conjunction with Childnet International, the IFPI drafted a guide to 'Young People, Music & the Internet,' to "help parents everywhere keep up with the music downloading habits of their children." The IFPI also provides a free program, called Digital File Check, that systematically scans a computer for -- and allows users to immediately delete -- installed file-sharing software. Even more importantly, it also performs the same function for downloaded music, video and image files.

The advent of online gaming introduced a host of dangerous entities to a once benevolent activity. PlayStation, Xbox and Wii all enable networking and connected gaming, a development which has already attracted the attention of predators and stalkers. All three systems provide parental control features, though, but the safety measures differ slightly among the consoles. Each allows parents to restrict browser access, filter inappropriate content, block chatroom activities and incoming messages, disallow purchases, and forbid certain games and movies (based on ratings).

But, aside from those frightening issues, obsession and addiction still remain a significant gaming concern. Even though the Wii may carry a reputation as the most family-friendly console, the Xbox 360 actually provides a unique parental control feature called the Family Timer. The self-explanatory timer serves as the best option for busy parents to specifically limit their child's gaming activity. So, potential consumers (or somewhat oblivious current owners), need to closely examine the step-by-step parental controls that each console has to offer (Sony's PlayStation 3, Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360) in order to determine which system fulfills a child's individual gaming desires, while simultaneously maintaining their safety (and their parents' peace of mind).

Tags: file sharing, FileSharing, gaming, Online Gaming, OnlineGaming, p2p networks, P2pNetworks, security, techtip, tips, top